Welcome to the Beckmen YOLA Center 

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Welcome to the Beckmen YOLA Center 

Camille Delaney-McNeil, Director, Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood


There are so many youth-centered programs, particularly in our Sistema community, that dream of creating a space just for their students. A space to design freely; a space to be a mentor. A space to perform. A space that belongs to, and works for, the community. Unfortunately, for far too many deserving programs and organizations, those dreams are not easily realized. What could it mean for the field if we call on our funders, institutions, and teams to truly commit to the change and advancement we have long sought?

The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, is one answer to that question. The Center’s manifestation is not just the result of a few PowerPoint slides, or some vague business venture done in the name of “growth.” It is the result of organizational alignment, years of planning, intentional dialogue, care, and thought leadership across the entire institution. It is an investment, just like those we make in our own lives: eating healthily and exercising, saving money for retirement—and taking steps down a path whose end we may never see ourselves, but believe in all the same. This was a natural decision made by key leadership for the Los Angeles Philharmonic—its Board, staff, and countless other key stakeholders—to use the launchpad of its centennial season to invest in YOLA and invest in building authentic relationships with new communities.

And the choice of Inglewood as the Center’s home is the result of building community relationships. Like most Sistema-inspired and youth development programs, YOLA directly serves students in its community. These students make up the demographic palate of the program. However, this can sometimes overlook other communities that are harder to serve when limited by geographic location.

First day of programming at the Beckmen YOLA Center. Students in Kindergarten to 5th grade attended classes with teaching artists. Photo: Scott Arenstein (LA Phil)

In direct response to this gap—and to community and alumni feedback—it was important that the Center’s location be in a space that represented the diversity and breadth of the YOLA program.

The building has been in the heart of downtown Inglewood for generations. It’s often remembered by local residents as the bank where they made deposits, or the Burger King where they stopped for a quick meal. It’s also adjacent to City Hall, the nerve center for Inglewood’s important decision-making. Now, music will be an ever-present part of the conversation—particularly conversations for and about Inglewood youth.

During the next chapter of YOLA’s evolution, this 25,000-square-foot building will be a dedicated space for the YOLA program, and the home of its fifth orchestra site. We envision the Center as a hub for some of our most wide-reaching learning and community initiatives, including the YOLA National Festival and YOLA National Symposium. Students will gather daily for instrumental and group lessons. Each week, different communities of YOLA musicians will gather at the Center to rehearse for cross-site ensembles.

Frank Gehry designed the Beckmen Center with excellence in mind. After all, if we can build something glorious for famous artists and musicians to thrive, we must be willing to do the same for our youngest generations in their own backyards. The Center displays the same standards as the admired Walt Disney Concert Hall: a stage-to-ceiling height of 45 feet, acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, retractable audience performance seating for 250—right down to the signature wainscot wood paneling along all the hallways.

Perhaps most critically, the space has been outfitted with wi-fi and other technology for hybrid learning. Physical barriers no longer dictate how and when learning can occur. That accessibility was a key motivation in establishing the Center.

In the words of LA Phil Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel: “It’s such an important thing for young artists to have a good space to build their dreams and to be inspired. Spaces inspire us; they inspire the orchestra to play better and to connect with the audience. Music fills the community with the power of harmony—and we need that in our society. Our young people need to have the best: the best instruments, the best teachers, and of course, the best venues. This will be an inspirational temple for all these kids.”

I could not agree with Gustavo more. After many years of working with OrchKids in Baltimore, I chose to relocate across the country for this opportunity, because I believe so firmly that the opening of the Beckmen YOLA Center is an asset for the entire field. The Center will be a flagship for what a purposefully built space for youth development through music can become.


© Copyright 2022 Ensemble News